It appears the City of White Rock will switch up a decision it made last month and return the party to the pier.
Since 2018, the lights on the arches of the White Rock Pier have been colourfully illuminated each evening, with a number of different lighting programs. Seemingly randomized, the lights have alternated from static tones to an almost disco-esque theme, flashing the colours of the rainbow.
It stayed that way up until last month (Sept. 22), when Peace Arch News published an article about a Buena Vista Avenue resident who took issue with the brightness and colours of the lighting, adding that it was “tacky.”
Following publication of the article, the city changed the colours to a static pale green and dimmed the brightness by 20 per cent.
However, the issue was raised once again on Oct. 6, this time by White Rock resident Ernie Klassen at the city’s COVID-19 Recovery Task Force committee meeting.
Klassen brought forward a motion to restore the colourful light displays because, he said, one of the mandates of the COVID-19 recovery committee is to help sustain Marine Drive businesses.
After the lights were toned down, Klassen said he received a number of phone calls and messages from residents and business owners who were upset about the decision.
“The lights are a huge draw in this community and for the businesses along Marine Drive,” Klassen told PAN. “All you have to do is walk the pier and promenade and you will see, at any given time, 10 or 20 people taking pictures of the lights. I know for a fact that people have said to me that they come to White Rock to see the lights that they see all over social media. From my perspective, we’re hindering the businesses by turning the lights off.”
During the virtual committee meeting, Coun. Christopher Trevelyan noted that the decision to adjust the display was not made or discussed by council.
“From what I hear, from a council position, definitely heard more support for the lights than opposed to it, in terms of emails and messages I got,” Trevelyan said.
During the meeting, city CAO Guillermo Ferrero said a number of people had complained that the brightness of the light was affecting their quality of life.
He noted that it was his decision to turn down the brightness.
“Some members of the public live right across from the pier, sometimes the lights changing or the brightness of the light affects their sleep,” Ferrero said.
Committee member TJ Dhillon responded, saying, “I don’t even know what to say.”
“How many people at the Eiffel Tower say hey, that thing’s bothering my sight line… I guess we got to take down the tower,” Dhillon said.
“I think it’s a beautiful thing to see – full brightness. If they want, I’ll buy them some blackout drapes and that will help them sleep better. It’s crazy, it’s such a beautiful thing to have all of the colours.”
White Rock Pier this evening. pic.twitter.com/uXPunPQehZ
— Aaron Hinks (@aaron_hinks) September 22, 2020
Task force member Ritu Khanna, who also serves as executive director of the South Surrey White Rock Chamber of Commerce, said it’s commendable that staff is trying to be responsive to concerns raised in the community.
“But there is obviously times when, yeah, you can’t just react to a couple of complaints. Especially as we go into the shoulder season – off season – we need to have as much light and brightness down there (as possible),” Khanna said.
As a way to find a compromise, White Rock Business Improvement Association executive director Alex Nixon suggested the city could turn the lights off in the early hours of the morning.
“My understanding is that the lights shut down at night, I may be mistaken, I’ll check into the program,” Ferrero said.
Since the decision to end the light show wasn’t made by council, it was determined at the committee meeting that returning to the colourful light display would also not require council approval.
“I can feel how strongly this committee feels about this lighting, so I will make sure that we restore it to what it was before, so no need for a council resolution,” Ferrero said.
In a statement to PAN Wednesday, Ferrero said the city has been experimenting with less light and static colours.
“As a result, the City has heard from local businesses and some residents that our approach so far needs some adjustment to ensure the lights are brighter and more colourful,” Ferrero’s statement read.
“To address the importance of the lighting, staff are exploring a system of managing the pier lighting, including colours, brightness and other factors.
“We appreciate the input of the community and businesses and will report back on the next steps in managing the pier lighting.”